Answers To NYC Renters' Questions

How do you get your landlord to require the upstairs neighbors to put down carpets? A lawyer who “has practiced in the landlord-tenant arena for more than two decades” has been answering these sorts of questions on the New York Times’ “City Room” blog. The advice he gives, while helpful and specific, is mostly based on what we imagine are NYC-specific problems and cites New York statutes, but it still might be helpful for renters elsewhere with similar problems.

For instance, with the noisy uncarpeted upstairs neighbors, he advises not just creating a log of all the disturbances, but hiring a professional to come in and measure the noise levels: “An expert’s analysis will buttress your position and will likely be more persuasive than your mere recitation of the facts and circumstances.”

“Answers About Tenant-Landlord Issues”
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 [New York Times]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. 8 says:

    Even putting carpet would not work. Houses/apartments in the USA are made from plywood and you can hear everything. Even houses and apartments in third world countries are better, you can’t even hear a thing.

  2. humphrmi says:

    Oh lord do I have uncarpeted upstairs neighbors stories. I am so glad I own now.

  3. photomikey says:

    @8: I wish I lived in an apartment in a third world country. So quiet and luxurious.

  4. impudence says:

    These answers are very New York City specific. The advice will not be helpful for most readers.

  5. spinachdip says:

    My current lease specifically requires that 80% of the hardwood floor be covered with carpet. Now, I’m pretty sure I don’t have 80% covered, but thank god for the clause. I spent 3 months living below a couple whose morning routine involved pacing, dragging chairs, and slamming doors non-stop for 30 minutes.

  6. samurailynn says:

    @humphrmi: I have carpeted neighbor stories! I swear that we once lived below a herd of elephants. I was at home sick once and woke up from nap to the building shaking. I thought to myself “wow, they’re even at it during the day”. Only later when I woke up and read the news did I realize that it was actually an earthquake, but it felt/sounded just like when our neighbors were home!

    And I am also glad to own now. But I’m glad as much for being away from neighbors standing outside my window smoking as much as for being away from noisy neighbors.

  7. AstroPig7 says:

    Unfortunately, carpet does nothing to muffle the sound of an obnoxious jackass who thinks the entire building needs to hear him play Rock Band.

  8. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Best way to get them back is payback. Wake up at 3 AM to tinkle? Grab your broom and bang on your ceiling. Or buy a decent subwoofer, mount it in a closet on the ceiling and listen to some hip-hop.

  9. Kierst_thara says:

    Ugh. The guy in the apartment directly above us just got Rock Band, and for rest of the weekend, all we heard was drum-pedal-stomping. And at 8:00 am, no less. Isn’t there some sort of rock star bylaw that prohibits rocking out before at least 10:00 or 11:00?

  10. RandoX says:

    I’ve definitely spent my time in apartments, sure glad I live someplace where I can afford to own my own home now.

  11. aparsons says:

    I’m so glad I live on the top floor, now.

  12. IrisMR says:

    you know, some people can’t live with carpets around. Carpet are the worst nightmare of folks with dust allergies.

  13. rolla says:

    glad i’m on the top floor :)

  14. jordy777 says:

    NYC landlord/tenant law is unique to say the least. I think it is safe to say that anyone not in the 5 burroughs should just ignore this.

  15. zibby says:

    I just tell people to STFU and throw a few threats in. I’m not popular, but being popular with inconsiderate jackasses isn’t that important to me – and I get my quiet.

  16. grlzero says:

    I’m glad I live on the first floor so our Rock Band night (hopefully) doesn’t annoy too much.

    And as for uncarpetted upstairs neighbors, I once had some who held late-night salsa parties … imagine 20 or so people in hard-soled shoes salsa dancing over your bedroom all night. Eek, I don’t miss that at all.

  17. econobiker says:

    My wife had fools living behind and downstairs from her before we got married. People behind decided to play quarters and party on a Thursday night in their kitchen which backed up to hers. We cranked up the fire, brimstone, and bad electric organ music religious AM radio station full blast against the ajoining wall. It quickly moved the miscrients into their living room away from the kitchen.

    The downstairs neighbor was a pain as he’d fall asleep with the DVD player on menu with the eternally repeating music or sound cycling. I (190lb male) would jump off the bed onto the floor in attempts to wake him up so he’d shut it off.

    Plus his alarm would keep going off when he wasn’t there on weekends. I’d run out and kick off his power for 2 minutes to kill the alarm clock.

    Once he got a girlfriend (we named them: him-Psycho and her- Stupid)it was ok for a while as we enjoyed hearing them do the nasty since she was very vocal. But then the domestic crap, him drunk and her wanting to leave (but never doing it), started so we kept the police number on speed dial.

    And the fools across the hall who used to leave garbage bags outside their door? I’d date the bags with a marker or just hang them on their door knob.

    Glad I don’t live in NYC.

  18. AstroPig7 says:

    Expanding on my above note, does anyone have advice (legal or practical) about dealing with an apartment manager who absolutely refuses to silence a noisy neighbour? My lease isn’t up until 2008-05, and I’ve been dealing with this issue off and on since 2007-03 (even calling the police on two occasions didn’t resolve it). The neighbour in question appears to have no concept of volume and treats the apartment building like a dormitory. I realize that I can just break my lease and move, but moving is a pain, and I’d prefer to keep ut as a last resort.

  19. Kurtz says:

    @econobiker:
    Reading your comment was like deja vu. I think we used to live in the same building.

  20. spryte says:

    @IrisMR: Thank you. Carpeting was my worst enemy in my younger days, pre-allergy shots, and still causes me discomfort if it isn’t vacuumed often.

    I have hardwood floors in my apartment and my lease says, as someone else mentioned above, that 80% of the floor has to be covered with area rugs. Mine isn’t, but I also never wear shoes inside so I doubt I make much noise moving around. Certainly not as much noise as my downstairs smoker neighbor makes hacking up a lung every morning in the bathroom, which I get to hear perfectly clearly through the air shaft. Lovely.

  21. kimsama says:

    @AstroPig7: You should have a clause in your lease about a “right to peaceful [or quiet] enjoyment of the premises” — if you get an attorney and break your lease with the evidence that you’ve called the police several times and had no help from the landlord, you should be ok (however, the lawyer might be more than the penalty fee for breaking your lease). You could maybe also try small claims (but I think you have to keep paying your rent into escrow while the case is pending). I am not a lawyer, but I would probably play it this way if I was in a similar situation.

  22. AstroPig7 says:

    @kimsama: My lease explicitly states that neither I nor my guests shall engage in loud or obnoxious behaviour, but I wonder if this can be said to imply that residents should not be forced to endure such behaviour (if the management doesn’t enforce the prohibition). I guess it’s time to call in some favours from my old job (at an apartment management company). :)

  23. Sonnymooks says:

    @AstroPig7:

    Its weird, most leases have a clause allowed for “peaceful enjoyment” of said premises.

    However, NYC seems to think that if said jackass tenant is making noise and the landlord tries to do something about it, its harassment.

    I had to deal with a tenant who insisted that just because tenants 2 floors above and below could hear his alarm clock going off, it wasn’t his problem, and in court tried to claim he was being harassed by us (his management company) even spouting conspiracy theories about the other tenants being paid off (to explain the petition against him).

    He only lost because some tenants would call the cops and we were able to produce reports…….the judge was almost buying this guys garbage.

  24. nardo218 says:

    Wow. What a useless article. The guy doesn’t answer any questions, he just says “You might be right, or you might not.”

  25. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @nardo218: Or ‘contact a lawyer’ because his other lawyer buddies don’t have the cool Times gig.

    “I was thinking of contacting a lawyer over a problem I’m having with my landlord. What do you think?”
    “I think you should definitely talk to a lawyer.”

  26. grumpygirl says:

    think owning make a difference, hah. i own a coop in a building that was converted in the 80s, and we have a tenant left over. a crazy, section 8, rent stabilized, screaming in the hallways kind of loon who, when mad at anyone, stomps around her apartment like an elephant. and, lucky me, i get to live below her. and her TV, on high, all night long. let’s not even discuss the aerobics.

    i think it’s great that NYC is so tenant friendly, but here is a worst case scenario. and there ain’t no getting rid of her. EVER. even if she punched me. (and i’d offer myself up for punching of that meant we could evict her.)